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Mobile Apps

Crazy (but useful) free keyboards for iOS 8

We've already seen the early swipe keyboards for iOS, but this collection of free apps has some of the more wacky alternatives that still manage to be useful.

Of the many new features in iOS 8 , one of the most exciting was that we would now finally get some of the cool keyboards that Android owners have been using for years. Sarah Mitroff already put together a collection of the first wave of keyboards here.

But in opening the keyboard up to developers, I'm quickly finding that there's a lot more possibilities for keyboards than apps like Swype or SwiftKey. I did some searching around and put together a collection of some of the more wacky keyboards that may seem a little silly on the surface, but actually can be both useful and fun.


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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Phraseboard, Free

With Phraseboard you're trying to limit your typing to a minimum by coming up with common phrases you can use under varying circumstances. The app gives you categories such as family, friends, or work, and you can add phrases to each category so their handy when you're messaging other people.

Phraseboard comes with a small selection of phrases for each category, but they are mostly just suggestions. If you go into the app itself, you'll be able to add or remove phrases that will become available the next time you launch the keyboard.

Though I haven't filled mine out as much as I want to, I can see a point where typing will become a thing I do only occasionally, as long as I'm clever with the type of phrases I add.

Who it's for: With the included phrases, Phraseboard isn't that useful. Only those who are ready to commit to filling in phrases will use this keyboard everyday.


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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Gif Keyboard, Free

You could already send animated gifs before there were custom keyboards in iOS 8, but you had to go find the gif, copy it then head back in to Messages to add it. With this free keyboard, your regular typing keys are replaced by animated GIFs that are separated by category.

Gif Keyboard does a great job of helping you find a GIF for just about any type of situation. There are categories for almost every emotion you want to convey with several options for happiness, saying hello, showing disgust, giving your appreciation and several others.

It would certainly get annoying if you send only animated GIFs as responses, but it's great to have them handy to add at just the right moment.

Who it's for: If you like expressing emotions with sort animations, you'll love this app.


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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Keymoji, Free

iOS has had the option to ad emoji icons (smiley faces) for a long time, but with this keyboard you get something a little different. Instead of searching for the right icon to express the mood, you can just start typing and Keymoji will offer up icons to match.

This means if you're asking if someone wants to get ice cream, Keymoji will automatically display the different icons for ice cream on top of the keyboard for easy access.

One thing that's a little annoying is that by using Keymoji, you lose the predictive text you get in the stock Messages app, but if you're willing to do without while adding fun icons, this is the app to get.

Who it's for: This one is admittedly for the younger folks, but once you learn the ropes it can get addicting to add icons to conversations.


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Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Kaomoji Keyboard, 99 cents, £ 0.69, AU$1.29

Kaomoji is already a stand alone app that lets you add ASCII art to your conversations. The only problem is that you have to go open the app, find the art you want, then come back and paste it into Messages.

With the Kaomoji Keyboard all you need to do is switch keyboards. From there you can swipe left or right to switch between emotions, characters, actions, and other categories to get giant lists of ASCII art to fit the mood.

Who it's for: Kaomoji Keyboard is not for everyone, but when you see the number of different creative ways people have used symbols to create faces and emotions, I'll bet you're as blown away as I am.